Loran Richardson was a standout player during an era when Houston High School volleyball was incredibly successful.
Now as coach of the program she once played for, she has a vision to return HHS to its winning ways.
Richardson came home over the summer when she was hired to replace Barry Wheeler, who left the Lady Tigers after one season. Her husband, Jeff, also joined the district as a teacher and coach.
“It’s good to come home –– step into the gym and have all those good memories of when I played here,” said Richardson, who was an Ichord during her playing days. “I want to see the program get back to what it once was when we were winning districts, the conference and going to state.”
It will likely be a process.
Richardson inherits a program that hasn’t won the conference or districts since 2006. That was just four years after she graduated. Richardson is the team’s fourth coach in the past seven years.
The 2016 Lady Tigers return just three players –– Alyssa Hayes, Emily Shea and Chloe Hunninghake –– that played significant minutes last year under Wheeler.
“We’re really young,” Richardson said. “There’s not a lot of varsity experience. Our younger girls will have to learn how to play on varsity and how to play together.”
Houston will be led by Shea and Hayes, the team’s top middle hitters. Alongside them are juniors Brooke McCown and Natalie Caldwell at outside hitters.
Hunninghake and Alexis Choate are the Lady Tigers’ setters. Sevanna Rowland and Melody Buse are the liberos. The team’s third senior, Jazelle Brannan, plays the right side.
Three sophomores –– middle hitters Kennedy Campbell and Tara Stanton as well as outside hitter Darby Bell –– will provide bench depth. They will be part of the varsity and junior varsity rosters.
Richardson praised her three seniors for leading the young team.
“Our seniors are doing a good job encouraging the other girls,” she said.
Richardson believes serving and defense will be strengths for her team. The Lady Tigers lack height at the net and are still learning their coach’s preferred style of play.
“I like to run a quick offense,” Richardson said. “Whether we can run it depends on if we can get the passes. That’s what I want to work toward. My younger setters are not quite comfortable setting those quicker sets, but throughout the season we will get there.”
While working to build success on the court, Richardson said she is just as focused on what is happening away from it. She said being servant leaders and women of character as well as having unity both on the court and away from it are important traits she wants to develop with her first team. She hopes they will be staples of her teams at HHS.
Houston opened its season Tuesday with a 25-11, 25-16 loss at Licking.
“What I’ll consider a successful season is if the girls are buying in to what we’re doing,” Richardson said. “Whether we’re winning or losing, they should be consistent in everything they do. I want them to work hard every day and have steady improvement throughout the season.”